Social Contagion: Who’s In Your Circle?

This podcast episode focuses on soul care and relationships: specifically, the importance of surrounding yourself with healthy, supportive relationships.  It’s within the context of these relationships that we shape our reality.

Who are you bouncing reality off of?

This episode, although short, mentions a few different resources, which I have linked to below:

Huffington Post Article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/leon-logothetis/kkeeping-good-company-why-you-should-surround-yourself-with-good-people_b_6816468.html

An Article on the Divorce Study mentioned in the podcast: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/21/is-divorce-contagious/

Two books mentioned in today’s podcast

Two books were also mentioned in the course of the podcast:

Twice Pardoned – by Harold Morris

Anatomy of the Soul – by Curt Thompson, M.D.

A quote from Curt Thompson, M.D. was used in this podcast, and can be found in this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDXvj73k-wY.

Scripture Verses quoted in today’s podcast:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.  Proverbs 13:20 ESV

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10: 24 and 25 ESV

The Wilson Ball from the movie, Castaway, was also mentioned in this episode.  Fun fact:  You can buy a Wilson ball of your own at Wilson’s online store. Here’s the link:  https://www.wilson.com/en-us/volleyball/balls/outdoor-volleyball/cast-away-volleyball

Was there anything in today’s episode that interested, challenged, or encouraged you?  If so, please comment below with your thoughts, or join PRN’s Facebook page to join in the conversation.  If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe and share with your friends!

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Pause, Renew, Next!

The Anticipation of Christmas

I just love Christmastime.  I love everything including the lights, the tree, the music, the parties, the decorations, the gifts, the food, and the anticipation. Yes, especially the anticipation.

Anticipation is the expectation of something, the hope that builds as we wait. For children, Christmas is all about the anticipation of the presents.  As a parent, the anticipation is waiting to see the joy on my children’s faces as they unwrap their gifts.

The anticipation of Christmas!

Even more importantly, as I mature, I feel the anticipation of the Advent season. As we light the Advent candles at church, I feel the hope and excitement of the true meaning of Christmas.  As I read Advent stories with my boys, I can relive what it must have felt like to wait for the long-awaited Messiah.

I have the opportunity to worship from this side of history, knowing that He has already come. However, Simeon and Anna (found in Luke 2), are famous for their holy and long-enduring faith as they waited for Him to arrive.  I just love these two – their faith, their attitude, and their joy at being included in the story of Jesus’ arrival.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  Luke 2: 25 NASB

Simeon received a special promise from the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died.  He believed it with all of his heart.  Luke says that the Holy Spirit led him to the temple on the day that Mary and Joseph came to present their baby to the Lord.  Simeon saw the infant Messiah with his eyes, and he immediately believed and rejoiced.  Not only that, he blessed God and prophesied aloud to his parents and any onlookers present!  He was filled with gratitude for the gifts that had been given: 1) his own promise fulfilled – seeing the Christ with his own eyes, and 2) the ultimate promise fulfilled – “the consolation of Israel” and “a light of revelation to the Gentiles.”

Then there’s Anna.  She is a kind of grace note in the story of Christmas.  She did not play a vital role in the story of Jesus’ birth. In fact, there is a mere paragraph about her in Luke.  Still, she was included in this miraculous story for a reason.

Luke says that Anna was a prophetess. Honestly, we don’t often hear in Scripture about female prophets, so that in and of itself is remarkable.  What’s even more extraordinary about Anna is that she was 84 years old, living, serving, fasting, and praying in the temple.  We’re told that she “never left the temple.”  Anna was at one point married for seven years and then widowed.  In this passage, we find her as an old woman in the temple.  Her life had been entirely dedicated to serving the Lord.

Unlike Simeon, we aren’t told that the Lord promised her anything.  This is why her story is so amazing.  She was just serving the Lord faithfully, using her gifts for His honor and glory.  While doing this, she happened to overhear the exchange between Simeon and Jesus’ parents.  She was therefore included in this incredible revelation.  Upon seeing Jesus, she immediately began giving thanks to God and spoke of Him “to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). I can just picture her little wrinkled, joyful self, stopping to talk to anyone and everyone at the temple who had time to listen. I just hope I grow up to be such an 84 year old one day.

Don’t these two just make your heart flip over a little bit?  They were two faithful people, advanced in years, serving the Lord.  They were anticipating His arrival, and God blessed them.  He wrote them into His story.

Pause: Find a nice, comfortable spot near your Christmas tree, and read the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke: 2:21-38.  What stands out to you in this story?

Renew: What are you anticipating this Christmas season?  If, instead of worship, you have been feeling stress, take time to pray and think about how you can shift your perspective or priorities so that you can take time to delight and hope in Jesus’ arrival.

Next: Look for one characteristic of Simeon or Anna that you admired in this passage.  Was it their faith?  Their excitement?  Their endurance while waiting for a promise?  Whatever it was that stood out to you, focus on emulating that characteristic in your own walk of faith.

May we take delight in the anticipation of Emmanuel.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Life Between Two Countries: An Interview about Missions with Dawn Detweiler

An overlook of the city of Maribor, Slovenia

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a missionary?  In this podcast, we’ll hear from Dawn Detweiler who, along with her husband Nathan, lives and works as a missionary in Maribor, Slovenia. She talks honestly about the challenges and rewards of mission work.  She also shares what it’s like to learn another language and to raise a family cross-culturally.  Additionally, she discusses how her faith has grown over the past few years as she and her husband have faced obstacles on the mission field.

Maribor, Slovenia (city centre)

In this episode, I mentioned a previous podcast which also focuses on missions work:  http://pauserenewnext.com/2018/12/04/woman-on-a-mission-the-story-of-gladys-aylward/

I had an opportunity to visit Dawn in Slovenia last year. Here we are enjoying ice cream!

Was there anything that Dawn spoke about in today’s episode that surprised, interested, or inspired you?  If so, please comment below with your thoughts, or join us on PRN’s Facebook page to join in the conversation.  If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe and share with your friends!

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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Advent, A Star, and Adoration

For the past couple of years, our family has begun a new Advent tradition.  We have been reading through the Jotham’s Journey series by Arnold Ytreeide. This year’s advent reading is titled Ishtar’s Odyssey, and it centers around the story of the Wise Men.  (No spoilers please, we’re still at the beginning!)

The story of the Wise Men is slightly odd, isn’t it? Little is known about them, and they show up only in one part of Scripture. They followed a mysterious star and found the Savior. How did that happen? We don’t know how many of them there were, their background, or even their origin, other than that they came from the East.

Still, they hold an important place in the Christmas narrative. After all, what’s a Christmas play without the Wise Men? They show up in nativity scenes, in Christmas Scripture readings, and on Christmas cards. They even have their own Christmas song!

Although little is known of these men, Matthew does tell us that they were wise.  By this, we can assume that they were educated and knowledgeable. Judging by the gifts they brought Jesus, as well as by tradition, we can guess that they were also very wealthy. This makes it all the more intriguing that men of this caliber would travel untold miles to bestow riches upon an infant.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2: 11 ESV

We can learn so much from the Wise Men’s example. The Savior was so important to them, that showing Him adoration was the ultimate object of their desire.

The definition of Adore is:

  • to regard with the utmost esteem, love, and respect; honor.
  • to pay divine honor to; worship
  • to like or admire very much:
O come let us adore Him!

The Wise Men have much to teach us about the act of adoration. Here are a few of the lessons that stand out to me:

  1. Adoration is the most important thing.  The Wise Men understood the importance of the Savior, and they were willing to humble themselves, bowing down before an infant King in order to show their adoration.
  2. It was worth the risk.  What did they risk?  We may never know the extent of it, since little is written about them in Scripture.  However, we do know that they took a potentially dangerous journey with an unknown destination. There was no GPS, only a star. They were following on sheer faith. They even had to go through mad King Herod to reach Jesus.
  3. Adoration cost them something.  They didn’t flippantly congratulate the parents on the birth of their new child. Instead, they practically hunted them down in order to adore their baby. And when they found Jesus, they presented Him with costly gifts. These gifts were not random; they had Spiritual significance. They were specifically chosen and carefully carried over a long distance to be presented to their King.

Maybe we should all be a little more like the Wise Men this Christmas, taking time to adore our Savior.

Pause: Take a deep breath and prepare your mind and body to be still.  Read and reflect on the Wise Men’s story in Matthew 2 : 1-12

Renew:  When is the last time that you can remember taking time to adore the Savior?  What were you doing?  Praying?  Singing?  Reading the Bible?  How do you most often show your adoration for the Lord?

Next: As we enter the Advent season, think about ways that you want to offer adoration to Christ:  maybe prioritizing time to pray or sing as a family, setting aside time for personal Worship at home or in the car, or simply shifting your perspective on the Christmas season.  Whatever it is that you choose to do, do it with joy!

May we too come to adore Him!

Pause, Renew, Next!

Pressing In During Hard Seasons: An Interview with Cynthia Simpson

Sharing a table and a microphone. Getting ready to podcast!

In the life of every believer come seasons of trial and hardship.  In this episode, Cynthia shares her story of learning to “press in” to the Lord during one such season in her own life.  She talks about “seeking the Lord in the heartache.”

Many passages of Scripture are spoken of in this interview:

On comforting othersII Corinthians 1: 3 – 4 ESV – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

On being content and cultivating faithfulness:  Psalms 37: 3-5 NASB

Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and a]cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Cynthia’s long-term verses that she finds herself always going back to: Proverbs 3: 1 – 6

I am very grateful to Cynthia for sharing her story.  I was really blessed by this interview, and I’m sure that many of you were too. Was there something in Cynthia’s story that spoke to you or encouraged you? If you would like to share your thoughts, join us on the PRN, Pause, Renew, Next, Facebook page.  You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Full Transcript

Missy: Hi, I’m Missy, and you’re listening to PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. A podcast about soul- care, Scripture, and stories of faith. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and tell your friends. Enjoy!

Ginny: Welcome to PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. The podcast. I’m Ginny Detweiler. I’m happy today to introduce you to one of my favorite people: Cynthia Simpson. I’ve known her for many years, and I’ve watched her faith firsthand. Cynthia, can you introduce yourself and tell a little bit about yourself to our listeners?

Cynthia: Yes, so I’m Cynthia, and I am a mom of three boys and my husband. We live in Greenville, South Carolina. We are very involved in our church family, but then also I just love to be outdoors with my boys. I’m waiting for them to get a bit older so I can take the mountain biking, and do all kinds of outdoorsy things. So right now we’re sticking to nature trails and biking around our neighborhood, but we’re gonna graduate someday.

Ginny: Awesome. So Cynthia and I actually went to college together, and for many, many years after college you were a house parent in group homes. Can you talk a little bit about what that experience was like?

Cynthia: Yeah, so I just felt like the Lord; just, you know, I always had a heart for missions but I never had a heart to go outside the country, and I quickly realized that the mission field in the United States is: it’s still the “orphan and the widow”, but our “orphan” in the United States is the foster care system. And so that’s where, you know, it’s kids, just, their families cannot take care of them, and so being in group homes you saw a lot of hurt, you saw a lot of brokenness. And so I think it was really hard to see that and to see that it was hard to fix. Like, you couldn’t just go in and fix it, but the flip-side was I saw Jesus fixed so much, in so many small areas where there were just victories and answered prayer, miracles: just amazing how God would just intervene in different lives of the different children and even adults that we were working with: just stories upon stories. And so, I did it, actually, for over ten years. I did it five years before I got married and then six years with my husband. And it’s just amazing the life stories that you hear and to see some of the kids that have grown up, you know, and are on their own now. And so it’s been a very neat journey. I loved it. It was a good job.

Ginny: Neat. I know that lately you’ve been walking through some hard things with your family, and I wondered if you would like to talk a little bit about that with us?

Cynthia: Sure. So basically my youngest son has been dealing with eczema for a little over two years, maybe closer to three, and, you know, initially it was just kind of a small eczema. When most people have eczema, you know, it’s just certain places on their body, and it’s not a big deal. In the last six months, it’s flared up to be 80 to 90% of his body, and we, in the past two years but especially the last six months, we’ve done a lot of just trying to figure it out, you know, and eczema is so tricky. But we have been to allergists. We’ve been to doctors. We’ve done testing, you know, skin testing, blood testing. We have done a lot of naturalists. We’ve done a lot of natural medicine. And to the point where it just really feels like we’re in the middle of it, and you just don’t see the answered prayer. And I think the hard thing too is it being my son, and he’s four now. But you know he has to wear mittens a lot, like all night, and then a lot of times during the day we have to keep mittens on him so that he’s not tearing up his skin. And it’s just really hard to see him struggling with, not only just being so itchy and scratchy and uncomfortable, but just like not feeling well. He literally will be lethargic and sad and just not interacting with his brothers. And so it’s kind of becoming, it’s a consuming thing because you can’t resolve it. And so we’ve done so much prayer, and you know there’s so many friends and family who are praying for us and praying for my son’s healing, and we haven’t seen it. And so then when you’re in a path like that for a long period of time, you start to say, “Oh, why are we not, like we’re doing everything right, we’re supposed to be doing. Why are we not seeing an answer?” And I think that we all face that at certain times of questioning: “Okay, Lord, your Word says this, but I don’t see it. Like I don’t see working.” And so I kind of saw a diagram one time of kind of like this hill, and when you first are saved and have your experiences with the Lord, you’re at the top of the hill. And then, as you walk with the Lord, at some point you’re gonna hit a valley. You know, and that valley is gonna be different things, and that valley can be different depths, but when you get in the valley you have a choice of either ignoring the struggle and pretending like it’s not there and going back up to the top. Or you can wrestle, and you can say, “Okay Lord, these are your promises. This is what you said, but I don’t see it.” You know, in like almost like arguing with the Lord, or…

Ginny: I think “wrestling” is a really good word for that.

Cynthia: Like wrestling, like it just, and you wrestle through it, and then as you wrestle through it, the Lord brings the healing or the breakthrough or whatever it is, and then you’re on a new higher hill where you’re stronger. And even a couple of weeks ago in church I remember the pastor saying, “You know you’re in a tough time when you can redefine ‘tough.'” Because two years ago I thought my son’s eczema was tough, and what I’ve been experiencing last six months makes two years ago look like a piece of cake. Like, I would love to go back to what it looked like before. And it’s just gotten even harder. So it’s like you know you’re in a rough season, when it’s being, when you’re a definition of rough is, is not, is harder than what your rough used to be. I guess kind of repeated myself.

Ginny: I completely understand what you’re trying to say.

Cynthia: But I think what I love about that is the pursuit, and that may be that, you know, most of us, you know, if we struggle for anything over a month, we’re just like, “Okay Lord, where are you at?” But then to talk to people who have been struggling with things for decades. You know, and for me like this six months to two years you know just depending on what I’m talking about as far as eczema and the wanting healing and not seeing it. It feels like forever when you’re dealing with it day in and day out, and it’s affecting your day-to-day life. It’s not like it’s something that just comes and goes. It’s something like hourly, and then even at nights, like when he is in his really bad flare-ups, you know, he’s up anywhere from an hour to three or four hours a night. Which means I’m not that much, and so then I’m not sleeping. And so that’s a really hard season to try to parent and love well and to walk well during the day on like four hours of sleep, when you’re a mom.

Ginny: Especially past the newborn stage: that is rough.

Cynthia: So I think just recognizing this season for what it is, and not giving up on the Lord, and not giving up on His promises. And that’s just, like I’ve had an opportunity to pray for other people for their breakthrough, and I’m like bawling because I want my breakthrough. Like I want to have breakthrough in our struggle. But at the same time, like, if we’re not seeing breakthrough, and we’re not seeing healing right now, it’s not because I need to learn a lesson. It’s because the Lord sees something bigger and something better. And like my son is so strong and just a little warrior. And so to see him be strengthened in this, and through him struggle with it, and for us to grow in it too. It’s just, you know, it’s been a walk.

Ginny: Yeah. So I know a lot of people can relate to struggling, but what is it like as a mom. Because I think when it’s in your own body is hard enough, but to watch your child is a different thing. What is that like?

Cynthia: It feels really hopeless. Because you can’t do anything. Then you’re doing everything you can. And you’re using all your own wisdom and all your understanding, and you’re still not getting it. And I think that’s just when I lean into the Lord. Like I write down scriptures, and I wrote down a scripture: it’s in my journal written down. And it says that, “I will give you understanding in everything” – second Timothy 2:7. And so, like, that’s a promise. Okay Lord, you said you’re gonna give me understanding in everything, so I stand on it. Like you don’t understand right now what’s going on, but healing is coming. And so you know like with our son, he wants to eat certain foods he can’t eat, and so I always tell him like, “Hey buddy, you can’t have right now, but someday you’re gonna be able to eat eggs, and you’re gonna be able to have milk.” And you know those kind of things where it’s not hard to cut that stuff out. There’s so many things that you can eat. It’s not hard to cut it out, but just to have the freedom again will be super nice. So we look forward to that.

Ginny: The words that you used with me when we talked about what it is that you wanted to share on this podcast were “to be able to press in during hard times.” So describe what you mean by “press in.” Because I think I know what you mean, and I think you even bringing up Scripture tells us, but can you describe what that looks like for you?

Cynthia: Well, I mean I think if you challenge anyone to look at when they’re struggling with something, like, if they have – if you have a relationship with the Lord, then when you’re struggling that pushes you closer to Him. And I hope that it does, and I think that the Lord allows us, things to come against us so that we will press into Him. And so for me, instead of just the whole thing of like when you get in the valley you can just give up and pretend like it’s not happening and pretend like life is hunky-dory and nothing’s wrong, or you can say, “This is a struggle, and I don’t know how to handle this, and I don’t know how to fix this, but here’s what Scripture says.” You know, and so pressing in for me is that I’m spending time with the Lord daily; I’m making it a priority. Because then when I get the unexpected phone call from the doctor, or my son wakes up, and it’s an awful day, and I can tell at 9 o’clock in the morning, you know, he’s gonna be wearing mittens all day, and you know I’m gonna be trying different techniques to try to calm him down and keep him distracted from his discomfort. You just lean into that, you know, and you sing praises. Because I think anytime that you’re focused on your circumstances, it gets very depressing, and so I just have try to remind myself, like turn on the praise music and worship the Lord. And you know because then the children start dancing and singing and having a good time too, and it turns into a really good dance party around breakfast time when we turn on praise music. But I think that’s pressing in. It’s seeking the Lord in the heartache. And like, okay, we’re dealing with this, but what can I learn? What can – how can I see you working? Like how can I see what you’re doing in this hardship? And so like for us, like, if Nolan’s having a good day, I’m just like, “Thank you Lord; thank you for today.” I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. You know we’ve tried different medicines and stuff, and so if the medicine works that’s great! Like, and I know in the back of my mind it’s a two-week medicine, and it’s in two weeks I’m gonna be back at square one, but I’m gonna be thankful for these two weeks. So just like being thankful every day.

Ginny: Yeah, it’s a different mentality altogether.

Cynthia: Yeah, and it’s not always easy. Like, and you have good days and bad days, but I think it’s – the Lord’s really blessed me with strong friendships, and some friends who have walked through this before me. And so to be able to have their encouragement and shoulders to lean on has been really strong. So, I’m sure some day I’m gonna be on the other side, and I’m gonna call back from the mountaintop, you know, the people who were in the valley. And I read this in a book a while back. I think it’s Hannah Hurnard. And she was saying that when you’re on the mountaintop, after you’ve climbed out of the valley, you call back: “You can make it.” And so the people who are crawling in the valley, and trying to get up the mountain, and they can’t see the mountaintop, they can still hear your voice, and so you call back to them, and you say, “Hey, I made it. You can make it.” And so I think that’s what my friend is doing for me, and so then someday I’ll be able to do that for another mom who’s kind of struggling. Yeah.

Ginny: That’s in 2nd Corinthians, he says that we’ll be able to comfort others with the comfort that he’s given us. I think that’s so real, and I love that you have that support.

Cynthia: Yeah, it’s good.

Ginny: Can you talk about a time that the Lord really ministered to you, like, that you really felt His comfort during a hard time.

Cynthia: I mean, I think it’s been multiple different times in this whole situation because it’s been, like I said, almost three years long, and there’s been some really low valleys in those three years, and then there’s been, you know, times where it didn’t feel like, you know, it was just kind of life, and you just kind of deal with it: you don’t think about it being a valley. But I can remember one time when my son was really sick, and it was kind of related to his eczema, but it was separate. And he was just really not doing well, and thankfully he wasn’t admitted to a hospital, but he was just very sick at home. And I just remember saying, “God, you’ve got to do something, because if you don’t, if we keep going down this road, this road is death. Like, that’s where his body is going.” And so just like crying out to the Lord, and just like, “I need help.” And just feeling the Lord’s presence in the room of like, “I love your son more than you do, and I want him better more than you do.” And knowing that, and I think the Lord just keeps bringing it back to me so often. Like, “I love him. I have plans for him to prosper him and not to harm him, to give him a hope and a future.” And so I just hold on to those, and I think the Lord speaks it to me, so many, like there’s like that one specific time on the couch I remember, but then it’s like the sweet Spirit of the Lord just keeps reminding me over and over again of that moment and of His love for my son and for me. So, you don’t want to, like, wish hardship on yourself ever. Sometimes like I just want life to be easier; I just wish life could be easier. But then I have to say, what if life was easier, would I be in the word as much as I am now? Would I be looking for His promises? Would I be writing down His promises and then going back over them and reading them to myself and reminding myself and reading it before I go to bed and, you know like, sticking it on my wall and making my kids memorize Scripture that they probably don’t want to memorize? Like would I really be pushing myself and the people around me closer to the Lord if I felt like I wasn’t struggling with something? I mean I might be bad. I shouldn’t need to struggle to press in.

Ginny: I think it’s human nature: that’s what it is. I think we’re all like that. And that’s really part of the reason I want to do this podcast, because as a counselor I hold a lot of stories for people, and I think as Christians, especially, we’re guaranteed in the Bible that we’ll go through trials, but not often do we go around talking about them. Especially not at church sometimes, which is a shame, and so there are a lot of people that need to hear those stories that can be encouraged when they’re in the heat of it.

Cynthia: And I think that’s something if we’re honest with our self everybody’s struggling with something. It’s just a different area, whether it’s self-esteem or family or finances or whatever, you know. And for us, like, you know, Nolan’s health is a huge struggle, and it’s in the forefront of our minds most days. But there’s other struggles in our life that are happening. You know, they just kind of get second rate because your son’s health is number one. But I think, you know, everybody’s struggling.

Ginny: How would you encourage other women who are in a difficult situation or who are waiting on the Lord?

Cynthia: I would just say don’t give up. Have hope. You know God is a God of hope, and so no one, you know, I guess that I have friends who speak into my life, and I’ve been blessed in that way. But I heard someone say one time, “If you can’t hear God, you can read God.” If you’re in that season of waiting and struggling you better be in the Word, because that’s the only thing that’s going to get you through, is reading the Word and putting it in your spirit. Proverbs 3 says – it’s talking about the Lord’s commandments and His Word – it says, “Don’t let them leave you. Bind them around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart.” And I think to be intentional about being in the Word is so important because in seasons of my life, especially in that newborn baby season, it’s really easy to drop your Bible reading. But I’ve had other seasons where running in the mornings took precedence over my reading my Bible, and so I was giving up my Bible time to run. So I was praying, and I was, you know, maybe meditating, maybe, while I was running, but I wasn’t in the Word, and I think it really slowed me down as far as my relationship with the Lord. And so I love to run, and I’ll pick it up again someday, but never again will I pick it up at the expense of reading the Bible – like my Bible time – because I’ve just recognized how important that is.

Ginny: That is good and a really important reminder for all of us to do that. I think it’s hard as busy women to sometimes make that a priority. I loved what you said about hope, and the Bible says that hope will not put us to shame. And I recently wrote a blog post about that, so friends if you want to go back and read my blog post about that, please feel free to do that on my website! Hope is like one of the most important things. So to close out our podcast, I have a couple of more fun questions for you because you’ve been talking about some hard stuff. So who is somebody who inspires you?

Cynthia: You know this is kind of funny. I think obviously my parents play a huge role in my inspiration, in my dedication to my family, and to the Lord, but it’s gotta be my grandma. Like, she passed away like three years ago, but, oh my goodness, we’re so much alike, and so I love her, and I love to think about her, and just the things that she’s taught me has been really neat. And so she’s always an inspiration. So I always try to think about how would she do this, or you know “I just stuck my foot in my mouth.” Uh, yep, grandma did that a lot too.

Ginny: Do you have a favorite quote of hers or something that she would tell you?

Cynthia: No, I just remember like her laugh. It’s just – her shoulders would shake, and she would kinda go, I can’t describe it, but I just love her laugh, and so I don’t know. She’s just a neat woman and just her legacy. I think that’s one thing that as I get older… like I’m not that old. I’m only 36, right? You starte to think about legacy, and I look at her legacy and I say, “Wow.” Her legacy was amazing, and that’s what I want because we’re guaranteed to die so what am I living for? I’m living to pass along the love of Scripture, the love for Jesus, the love of worship and praise, and giving thanks, like to be a thankful person, and to be a person who’s creative, and can handle things, so yeah. I mean she’s just an inspiration as far as how much she did.

Ginny: To close us out, what is your favorite Bible verse and why?

Cynthia: Okay, so I kind of, I have a really hard time when people ask me that question because just the whole Bible is good, right? And I’ve never had like a life verse like some people do, so my favorite Scripture verse is usually the one that’s speaking to me right now.

Ginny: Girl, we’re so much alike, because I’m the same way.

Cynthia: Well, I feel like… This is my thoughts on the matter, is that: if you’re trying to live in the past, or you’re stuck on a Scripture from the past, then it’s not a fresh revelation, and it’s good, but it’s living on the past. It’s like old stale bread. So I want something that’s for this season.

Ginny: So let me ask it a different way. What is your favorite Bible verse of the moment?

Cynthia: Yes. Thank you. Okay, so this is a really good one. I have two, so I’m just gonna have to read all of them. Okay so the first one is Psalms 37 and it’s 3 – 5: “Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” And I think that’s for me huge. It’s just being content where I’m at and cultivating faithfulness with the Lord. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in him, and he will do it.” So as I walk this road of, you know, just things going on in our life in general, but then also my son’s health. Just trusting him and committing our way to him and knowing that the Lord has plans that we just need to walk day in and day out and be in touch with Him. But then kind of one that’s more long-term – that’s kind of like my first of the week – more of my long-term, I just keep going back to this Scripture verse, that actually my children are memorizing it right now, and so we’ve added like little hand motions to it, and it’s really fun: “My son do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commands. For a length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart so you will find favor and a good repute in the side of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” and I just love all this – the whole thing.

Ginny: Great. I love that you said that, and I love that it’s on this podcast, because that is one of the 3 S’s: soul-care, Scripture, and stories so I love that. Thank you for sharing. Well friends if you’re listening, if you have any thoughts or comments about what you heard today about what Cynthia said or anything that relates to your own experience, join me on my Facebook page PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. to join in the conversation or feel free to comment on the website pauserenewnext.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and spread the word to others who you think would enjoy it as well. You can find PRN on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and can find the podcast on our website, pauserenewnext.com, on iTunes, Google Play, or anywhere else podcasts can be found. New podcasts are released each Tuesday and a new blog post each Friday. This is Ginny Detweiler with PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. The Podcast. May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Woman on a Mission: The Story of Gladys Aylward

"Huangshan China Yellow Mountain Landscape" by Chi King (cc-by-2.0) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Huangshan,_China_(YELLOW_MOUNTAIN-LANDSCAPE)_XII_(1071076723).jpg
A Five Day Hike

A 20 minute podcast does not do Gladys Aylward’s story justice.  If you enjoy what you hear on this podcast, there are some really interesting books that go into greater detail about her story.  One famous book about her life is The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess.  You can find two more books about her in the source list below.  

What stood out to you about this story?  

Things that stood out to me about Gladys Aylward were her courage and bravery in the face of opposition.  Her belief that God had called her to China led to a fierce resolve. She didn’t wait for doors to open, she sometimes forced them open herself.  Building this fierce resolve seemed to increase her spiritual muscles and the attributes that she would need for the hard things God called her to do in China.  Those attributes are also the things that caused the Chinese people to love and respect her.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or epiphanies about Gladys Aylward’s story. Join our Facebook page at PRN – Pause, Renew, Next to join in the conversation, or  feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus!

Pause, Renew, Next!

Source materials:

Atwood, Kathryn J. (2017). Women Heroes of World War II. Chicago, Ilinois: Chicago Review Press Inc.

Benge, Janet; Benge, Geoff (1998), Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime YWAM Publishing

Movie listed in the podcast: The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

Full Transcript

Hi, I’m Tammy, and you’re listening to PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. a podcast about soul-care, Scripture, and stories of faith. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and tell your friends. Enjoy!

Welcome to PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. The Podcast. I’m Ginny Detweiler, and today we are going be talking about the faith story of a woman who lived an incredibly adventurous life. Really her story could be made into a movie – it’s got it all: it’s got adventure, it’s got action, it’s got drama, it’s got tragedy, some comedy. I’m just kidding – really it’s already been made into a movie, and the name of it is The Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingrid Bergman. If you don’t already know who I’m talking about, today we’re gonna be talking about Gladys Aylward, and we’re gonna be starting back in the 1930s when she was still in her twenties.

At that time she had recently become a Christian and had felt a very strong call to go to China as a missionary. In fact, she was accepted by the China Inland Mission to study to be a missionary in China, but after a few months they let her go because she didn’t show enough progress in the Chinese language. She was not dissuaded. She decided to work as a domestic house worker for Sir Francis Younghusband who was a British Army officer and Explorer and had spent much time in Asia. While she worked she began saving money, and soon she had worked up enough courage and enough money, that she went to try to buy a ship passage.

But when she got there, the teller was less than encouraging. He said “Ma’am, don’t you know you only have three pounds? You need at least 90 to be able to get to China.” But she was not discouraged. She said, “Well surely there’s a cheaper way to get there than that!” And he said, “Well ma’am, there is. You can go on a train. But don’t you know there’s a war right now between China and Siberia? If you go by train, there’s a good chance that you’ll die long before you get there.” But she again was not discouraged, and she said, “Sir, it will take me so long to save that money, surely all be over by the time I get there.”

So she worked and worked and saved money. She worked every chance she could, and each week she would take her money and put money down on her ship passage. All this time she really had no plan about what she was going to do when she got to China. She didn’t even know where in China she was headed, but she saved nonetheless.

During that time, one day she had an important conversation. Someone told her about a missionary lady in China named Jenny Lawson who had recently decided to retire and had gone back to China to live there. And so our friend Gladys decided that that’s exactly where she would go. She would go help Jenny Lawson.

One day she did save up enough money, and she got on a train and headed across Europe on to the trans-Siberian railway. Slowly, as they went into Russia, there were less and less civilians on the train and more and more soldiers, until she was the last civilian left. Although the soldiers only spoke Russian and she only spoke English, they communicated well enough with hand motions and gestures. And it was very clear that the soldiers wanted her to get off, but she was not going to get off. She said “I have paid my money to get to China, and I’m going to get there.” But finally they stopped, and they could hear gunfire, and the soldiers made her get off the train and walk back to the last train station.

Now remember, she was in Siberia. She walked through the snow miles to get back to the last train station, and when she got there she had no clue what she was going to do. She only had a one pound note that was stuck in her corset and no plan as to what she could do from there.

She was detained by Russians who changed her passport from saying “missionary” to “machinist”, and it was clear that they planned to send her to be a free worker somewhere in Russia. Thankfully, she escaped with the help of some locals, who helped her get onto a Japanese ship. But as she was about to get onto the ship, six Russian officials chased her and surrounded her. Quick thinking, she threw her bags onto the ship, and threw the one pound note up into the air so they were confused and grabbing for it, and then jumped onto the ship herself.

Eventually she did make her way to China. When she got there, she found Mrs. Lawson had moved, and she had to track her down. Nothing was as she expected: not the trip; not Mrs. Lawson; not even the people or her reception in China after all the work that she’d gone to do to get there.

Mrs. Lawson herself was a lady in her 70’s, and she was not really warm and fuzzy. She had white hair and blue eyes and was very, very blunt.

The people there did not receive Gladys well either. In fact, one day in town the children laughed at her, and some ladies threw mud at her. She ran home crying, and Mrs. Lawson was not sympathetic. She said, “Well they think that were foreign devils, but there’s no use crying about it. We just have to persuade them differently.”

So they came up with a plan to begin an inn. At that place, there was not a road. There were just mule trains that would pass through. So their plan was to take their home and make it into an inn for the muleteers. However, they wouldn’t come inside, so Mrs. Lawson said, “Gladys, I want you to stand outside, and when they come by you’re gonna pull the reins and pull them into our courtyard, so that they can’t escape.” So she did! Can you imagine poor little Gladys in her 20’s or 30’s is standing out there and pulling little muleteers into their inn so they had to stay. Well, it didn’t go well at first, but in the long term it worked out very well, because they got a great reputation for telling great stories. And what stories did they tell? But Bible stories of course.

Sadly, Mrs. Lawson died within the first year that Gladys arrived. And that really left her in another bind, because now what was she going to do? How would she be a missionary by herself? Thankfully, in that year she’d learned quite a bit of the language. And she could kind of keep up the inn, but she really didn’t know what was going to come next.

But God had it figured out. He sent the Mandarin of the province to visit her, and the Mandarin asked her: would she go on a special mission for him around to area villages and give orders for the women to stop practicing foot binding. Now that had been a practice for many, many, many generations, and the women there really were crippled because they could not walk on their little feet from where they had bound them for so long. So the new edict said that anyone under the age of 10 had to have their feet unbound. And it was Gladys’s job to go around and spread the news. The Mandarin gave her some soldiers to accompany her to give her a little oomph when she told them. Still, Gladys wasn’t so sure about this idea, but the Mandarin said, “Well I can’t send a man to do the job, and all the women have had bound feet and won’t be able to walk that far. You’re the only one that can do it.” And so she had a new job, and actually she was respected and loved, and she became known as the storyteller because everywhere she went she would tell stories from the Bible about God and about the Gospel.

One day, Gladys was approached by a child seller who was trying to sell her a child. Gladys was outraged. She went to the Mandarin to talk about it. He heard her, and he agreed that it was outrageous and that it was evil, but said that there was nothing he could do about it.

So Gladys went back and bought the child. She named her Nine Pence because that’s how much she spent. And Nine Pence became her daughter. She adopted her. Soon there was a little boy outside, and Nine Pence asked if she could eat a little less and if Gladys could eat a little less, that maybe they could adopt that little boy too. And soon she adopted him. And don’t you know, before long, she had 19 children.

Well by this time, she decided it was probably a good idea to become a Chinese citizen. And when she did, she took the name 艾偉德, which is the name that the Chinese people had given her, and it meant “virtuous woman.” And during that time she took in more and more children and really started an orphanage.

Soon war broke out, and for the Chinese people that was nothing new because they were unofficial wars all the time. But this was different. Japan had invaded China, and little did they know they were in the middle of World War II. Soon Japan bombed their town, and there was great destruction and fear.

Again the Mandarin came and asked for her help. He said, “China is having to do a scorched earth policy, because Japan comes and invades and takes all of our supplies, so we’ve got to get rid of everything.” Gladys was very sad because China was like her new homeland and she loved it dearly. Some Chinese officials came and asked her if she would work as a spy for China. Because she loved China so much, she said that she would at least as far as her conscience would allow.

Time Magazine did an article about her that became really popular in the United States and gave her a kind of 15 minutes of fame. By this time, she was taking care of 200 children in China, and they needed to move to a safer area. There was a man who helped her and took 100 of them to a safer area, and she was waiting for him to come back and return to take the other 100. But he never returned. Later she would find out that he had been killed by some Japanese soldiers, and when they had killed him they found the Time article on him, and now she was a marked woman too.

Soon an officer came to the door and warned her that she needed to leave, but she said, “Christians never retreat.” He said, “艾偉德, you need to know that Japan has marked you.” And he pulled out a paper that had her name along with two others, one of whom was the Mandarin, and said that they were wanted dead or alive. She went upstairs and prayed, because although she wasn’t afraid to die she wanted to make sure she was making the right choice. She opened her Bible and read, “Flee ye to the mountains.” And so she decided she would go.

She had to take the children to safety herself. All she had was 94 children, the clothes on their backs, a cast iron pot, millet enough for two days to feed the children, and she had all the children carry their shoes around their waists. They tied them around their waist because the soles of their shoes were made of bark and they were only supposed to be good for a month. They would need them much longer than that.

In 12 days they finally got to the Yellow River, and she knew, if they could make it to the Yellow River, that after that they could take a train or a boat the rest of the way. When they reached the town next to the river, there were no people anywhere. Finally they found a little old man by himself underneath the tree. Gladys spoke to him and asked where all the people were. He said they had run away because they knew Japan was coming for them. She asked why did he not leave, and he said it’s because his children had already been killed by Japanese soldiers, and he’d rather use his last breath to spit on them than to run away. He urged her to run back into the mountains. He said. “You by yourself might make it, but with all these children there’s no way you will survive.”

But she went on anyway, and they sat by the Yellow River and waited for a boat. Four days went by and no boats came. The children said, “艾偉德, why can you not make the Yellow River part like Moses did in the Old Testament?” And so they prayed together.

Now, at this time Gladys was not doing well physically. She was exhausted. But even more than that, she had sustained an injury earlier from a Japanese soldier who butted her head with the end of a rifle. Since that time, she had dizzy spells, and times where she just wasn’t herself.

So as they sat by the Yellow River and waited and waited and waited they sang, and they prayed. And finally an officer appeared. Gladys went and talked to him, and she said, “Is there any way that you can help us? We need a boat.” And the man said, “Of course I would love to help you, but know that even if you get on a boat there’s a good chance that Japan will shoot you from the air. In fact,” as he watched the kids playing in the reeds he said, “Japan has been coming by and shooting into those reeds, but for some reason this week we haven’t seen any of the airplanes.” So sure enough he got them a boat and ferried them across. It took three trips, but they all made it across. And when they got to the other side, they got on a train.

Of course, as you would suspect after listening to the rest of this story, you can bet that that train didn’t make it very far before it too was detained, because Japan had targeted China’s railroads. 艾偉德 could not imagine what they would do now. She was so tired. She was told that the only way that they could make it to where they need to go was to go through the mountains. They looked up. The mountains were so high, they were hidden by clouds. Gladys asked how many days it would take to travel them by foot, and she was told four or five days.

This is the one time in the whole story where she lost it. She sat down in front of all those 94 children and cried and cried and cried, and some of the kids also started crying. But soon she stood up, wiped her face, and said, “Everyone needs a good cry every once in a while, but now it’s time to move.” And so they got up, and they started walking, and they climbed those mountains for five days until they reached the other side. And amazingly, even though everybody was completely exhausted, there were no major injuries.

When they reached the other side and tried to get on the trains, they were told, “The trains here are longer running. The only trains that are now running are coal trains, and you can’t ride on those.” Gladys and the children were so tired, so Gladys told them to pull out their little bed rolls and lay on the platform, just like she had all those years ago in Russia, and she fell asleep. Soon she was awoken by one of the Train officials who said, “We heard your story and will let you ride on the coal trains if you want.”

So all the kids climbed on top of the coal cars, and they made little boxes around themselves made out of coal so that when they went around curves the kids would not fall off.

I know, right? This is insane. This whole story is wild and crazy, but none of the children die in this story, and that’s the amazing part.

When they woke up the next morning, everybody was completely black from all the coal dust. So there was no way that the Japanese could see them: they were completely camouflaged. And the only danger they were in, besides potentially rolling off, was a bombing, which did not happen. So three days later they finally arrived in the city where they were supposed to drop the children off at the orphanage.

But again they were not allowed to get off. Nobody was allowed to get off the train. They said, “You’re gonna have to keep on moving.” Gladys at this point was so tired that she was going in and out of consciousness. Three days later they finally arrived in another city where there was an orphanage, and they were able to get off. And Gladys took all of the children to an orphanage and dropped them off, and then continued on her way.

Two days later, she passed out and fell into a coma. That’s how bad off she had actually been all of that time. And she stayed in a hospital for a couple of months. She was there at a Baptist Hospital.

And when she woke up, she heard English speaking people, and they said that she had been so bad off, not only had she had fever and exhaustion and malnutrition, but she also had typhus and pneumonia. In fact, it took her years to get fully well.

After World War II another civil war broke out in China. And you know that one: it was the communist regime where Mao Zedong became the new communist leader. During that time, Gladys also went through some hard times. There were a lot of people becoming Christians, and there was a university where two hundred students have recently become Christians, and she knew many of them. One day the communist leaders brought all the students out and read out the names of the students who had said that they were not for the communist government. And that was two hundred students. One by one they read their names. The first girl came forward. And they said, “Now are you for communism? What do you believe in now?” And she said, “Two months ago I believed in Jesus Christ, but after you have treated us so harshly I believe even more in Jesus Christ.” And they took her out and beheaded her in front of everyone. And Gladys watched as they killed all 199 one after the other in the same fashion. She was devastated as she watched the first girl die, but she stayed throughout the entire massacre and prayed a prayer for them that Mrs. Lawson had taught her many years before. “Lord, let me not be afraid to die, but if I am to die let me die well.”

Soon the time came that she had to leave China, which she loved dearly. Not because she was afraid of her own life, but because she feared that she was drawing attention to those she was trying to help. So she left, and when she went back to Great Britain she tried to continue to help the Chinese refugees. She was not able to go back to China because she was denied entry due to the communist government. So although she loved the Chinese people, and she never stopped loving them, she went and worked in Taiwan instead. She worked in an orphanage there, and she died in her late 60’s, still helping orphans.

Tell me, what stood out to you about this story? As I was listening to her story and learning all about her, there were some really important things that stood out to me. Number one, how God was there for her every step of the way, even when a lot of us would have thought that He had gone missing. I mean, how many people go through and see as many hardships as she saw. Nothing seemed to come easy for her, but to me her courage, bravery, and the belief that God had called her to something led her to a fierce follow-through that rarely do we see in today’s culture. She didn’t wait for doors to open, she forced them open herself. She built a fierce resolve that seemed to build spiritual muscles and attributes that she would need for the hard things that God called her to do in China. Those are also the things that caused the Chinese people to love and respect her.

What stands out to you about her story? I’d love to hear about it. Join our Facebook page at PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. to join in the conversation, or, of course, feel free to comment on the website: pauserenewnext.com.

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and spread the word to your friends. You can like us at Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. New podcasts will be released each Tuesday and new blog posts each Friday.

This is Ginny Detweiler with PRN: Pause. Renew. Next. The Podcast. May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus!